How do you start your morning? In a given week, do you create space to begin your day with intention, peace of mind and a connection to something bigger? Or do you find yourself starting out with a task list, immediate screen time and email replies? Maybe it’s a combination of both, some days filled with focus and ease, others feeling stressed, busy and constantly behind the eight ball.
We live our life in phases. Sometimes it’s go-time and we need to stay focused on raising young kids, finishing an educational program or getting to the next stage of a business venture or new job. This was my phase when I discovered just how powerful a morning ritual was in consciously slowing my life down. As a small business owner with a life-long entrepreneurial spirit, I have always had projects that take commitment and long hours outside of the standard work week. As a yoga therapist and wellness practitioner, I also have a dedication and devotion to living the tools of yoga to avoid burnout and chronic stress. And by far the most potent tool I have found is a consistent morning ritual.
There’s a short and sweet morning ritual I come back to again and again when I want to start my day with mindfulness and appreciation. I begin with the Magic Three yoga sequence. It’s a simple, energizing yoga routine that packs a punch, it’s my go-to. Next I write my Gratitude List. The trick for me is to let appreciation really sink in, so instead of simply listing a few things, I choose to write about them, sometimes I even draw them. This is key for my morning, starting the day with a grateful heart. And then I breathe….fully. I sit upright and take about 12 rounds of low and slow belly breathing. I keep in my awareness the idea that I am allowing my body to take all the time it needs to breathe in and breathe out. This seems simple, but it can be quite profound.
So what would a morning ritual look like for you? Let’s start with a definition: A morning ritual is a collection of practices performed regularly that nourish your mind, body and spirit. These practices run the gambit and are unique to you. Morning journaling, gratitude practice, seated meditation, breathwork, yoga, mindful walking – these all count and have proven health benefits. A morning ritual is not waking up and immediately checking your social media for updates, running the espresso machine as you facetime with your friend, nor poring through emails over a hurried breakfast. A morning ritual is intentional, it is reverant, it returns you to a sense of calm and peace. And it can happen in less than 10 minutes!
Morning rituals are about finding our own personal still point, our center. They are a potent and meaningful way to fill our cup. Not annually, or monthly, but as often to daily as we can get. Morning rituals are proven to decrease stress and anxiety, improve sleep and increase productivity and focus. My personal morning ritual fosters a deep connection to something much bigger than my task list, my occupation and my daily life. This connection fuels how I make decisions, the quality of my relationships and the work I do in the world.
Curious what it can do for you? Here are four steps to making it happen and making it stick, and a go-to Morning Ritual to get you started:
1. Get to sleep
The quality of our sleep will determine how we feel in the morning. There are many simple lifestyle tweaks we can implement to improve our sleep. Turning off screens one hour before bed, avoiding stimulating TV, not exercising too late at night, dimming the lights in our home, these all are all effective sleep hygiene strategies that will make a difference. If you stay up later than you would prefer, make a gradual shift. Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier and waking up 15 minutes earlier. If you are consistent, you will eventually find a sleep rhythm that feels good to you that also supports a healthy morning routine.
2. Create and curate
Take the time to design a ritual that is meaningful to you while at the same time practical for your timeframe. Implement what inspires, what feels good and what makes sense. It may look something like this: Start with 3 yoga movements that make you feel energized. Then write a list of 3 things you would like to prioritize to help you focus at work. Close with a 5-minute guided meditation on gratitude to remind yourself of all the good things. Can you imagine the ripple effect a morning like this would have on your day?
3. Make it magic
Inspiration is the secret sauce, so do it up! Include in your ritual what you love to do, what you love to look at, what you love to listen to. Make an altar or take over a shelf dedicated to this special practice. Bring in crystals, affirmation cards, photos of loved ones, fresh flowers, incense, music. It’s a ritual, make it beautiful, make it magic.
4. Be consistent
A morning ritual is a practice and every practice depends on the ‘D’ word: Discipline. If inspiration is the secret sauce, discipline and consistency are key ingredients. Our lives ebb and flow, it may not be realistic to expect that you can devote 15 minutes to a daily practice. But can you devote yourself to it one consistent day a week? Maybe two or three? Plan for it, carve out time and enjoy the benefits of discipline and consistency.
Yes, establishing a meaningful morning routine takes effort, but a life well lived is effortful. Self-care is effortful, yoga is effortful. It is this effort that brings into our lives a steady and powerful morning that yields benefits we can draw on for life.
Emily Olson, C-IAYT, E-RYT, PTA, is a certified yoga therapist, yoga teacher and physical therapist assistant. In 2017, she opened Ripple Wellness with her husband, a multidisciplinary natural health clinic with a unique commitment to community outreach and education.
As a yoga therapist and teacher, Emily has over 1,500 teaching hours in yoga, meditation and mindfulness. She teaches dynamic chair yoga and therapeutic yoga classes to students of all ages and fitness levels. In her private practice, she offers private yoga therapy sessions adapting yoga poses, breathwork and meditation to help people with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, auto-immune disorders and other more complicated medical conditions.
An inspired teacher and health educator, Emily has taught dozens of classes on health and wellness topics that include radical self-care, morning rituals, gratitude, breathing techniques, meditation and stress relief practices. Her passion lies in igniting in people a drive and inspiration to prioritize self-care practices that foster a deep connection within so they can live their best possible life.
Find out more about Emily on Instagram and Facebook @ripplewellness and reach her at ripplewellnessnw.com.